Category Archives: Critical Thinking

Summer Reading 2014

I’ve seen several new Summer Reading lists for children in the last few days — some have various prizes for accomplishing them, for others the prize is just getting introduced to some great books.

Thought I’d share:

Reward based mega-list: http://www.capitallyfrugaldc.com/2014/05/29/business-sponsored-summer-reading-programs-2014/ 

American Library Association picks:
http://www.ala.org/alsc/2014-summer-reading-list

Scholastic Challenge:
http://www.scholastic.com/ups/campaigns/src-2014

From SummerReading.org:
http://www.summerreading.org/booklists.php

From a reliable teacher-website:
http://www.education.com/seasonal/summer-reading/

Annual Reading Rockets List:
http://www.readingrockets.org/books/summer

and of course, my favorite:

Classic Children’s Books (20 years or older, but still readily available):
http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_children's_classic_books

Happy Summer Reading! 🙂

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Reader’s Block

My job as a sixth grade language arts and math teacher keeps me jumping, and during the school year, I have found it best to shelve all thoughts of leisure-reading. This year, looking forward to winter break, I was all set to hibernate for a few days with Lauren Willig’s The Betrayal of the Blood Lily Product Detailsand Susan Vreeland’s Product DetailsClara and Mr. Tiffany. They were both a little on the thick side, but I was confident that I’d be able to finish them in two weeks.

Around that same time, one of my favorite friends from AgentQueryConnect, Sophie Perinot (a.k.a. Litgal, a.a.k.a. @Lit_Gal), announced that there was a contest on Goodreads to win an advance copy of her debut novel, The Sister Queens. I’d already pre-ordered it, but getting the chance to read it before the rest of the world did was intriguing, so I entered. And then I won a copy. Product Details

When it arrived, I was in the throes of getting ready for Christmas, so I added it to the pile on my nightstand.

Now I had three books to read. I mentally arranged them: Clara and Mr. T looked good, but it could wait because my book group wasn’t meeting until the end of January. A fan of Willig’s whimsical romances, I was tempted to pick up Blood Lily, but Sister Queens had a deadline because I’d told Litgal that I would write an advance review on my blog. The Sister Queens it was.

Despite my sons’ constant arguing over their yuletide haul of small electronics, I managed to get some reading in during the week before New Year’s. I was enjoying the book, and by page 185 was confident that I would finish by the time school resumed on the fifth, with maybe even enough time left over for Clara. And then the Kindle that I’d ordered with my Christmas gift-cards arrived.

Suddenly my interest was fixated on my own small electronic. At first I restrained myself to just figuring out how to use it, but when the purple leather case arrived two days later, I succumbed to downloading many of the titles I’d previously selected with my “Kindle for Mac” app. I couldn’t wait to try it out, but The Sister Queens e-book will not be available until March 6th, so I was out of luck in that department. I tried to satisfy myself by downloading the electronic version of Clara and Mr. Tiffany from the library for later, but I was itching to push those buttons, and really wanted to experience reading in bed using only one hand.

“You are not allowed to use your Kindle until you’re done with The Sister Queens,” I told myself sternly. Five or six times.

“It couldn’t hurt to read just a few chapters of something,” Myself said back. Agnes Grey, by Anne Brontë, it was.

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Unfortunately, Agnes’s woes of being a governess to a family of singularly unruly children ran in remarkable parallel to a recent classroom management situation of my own, and I couldn’t put it down. And then school started up again.

I still haven’t finished The Sister Queens, although I’m loving it whenever I get the chance. I was only able to get the first chapter of Clara read in time for book group, and Blood Lily has gotten knocked off the table and is under the bed somewhere, waiting for Presidents’ Day.

Will. Finish. Sister. Queens.

Stay tuned for my review…

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Reading is Felonious

This August, in the throes of readying for the new school year, a recently hired colleague expressed concerns about where to keep her purse during the day. Her worries were understandable, as the school is in an urban area with a somewhat higher level of crime than the suburb from which she comes. I assured her that last year I had an enormous purse that would only fit under my desk, but no one had ever bothered it. I even kept a dish filled with nickels on top of my desk from students who purchased pencils, and no one ever stole any. No, the students don’t take money. They steal books.

By June, it had cost me more than forty dollars to replace titles “borrowed” from my classroom library last year. Shiny new copies of The Mixed-Up Files of Mrs. Basil E. Frankweiler, The Wonderful Flight to the Mushroom Planet, Roll of Thunder Hear My Cry and My Side of the Mountain had all disappeared from the bookshelf.

“Does anyone have these books?” I would ask my class, only to be met by total silence. But I already knew who had them. I’d recommended them to those students, myself. All bright children who I was pretty sure didn’t have any books of their own at home.

As far as I’m concerned, they are welcome to keep them, and if it costs me another forty dollars this year, I’ll pay it without flinching. I only hope that all of those books stay in print.

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Book Review: The Thirteenth Tale, by Diane Setterfield

The Thirteenth Tale: A Novel

I was first acquainted with The Thirteenth Tale when I won a contest on author Mindy McGinnis’s blog, Writer, Writer, Pants on Fire. The prize was a book of my choice, and Mindy (a school librarian by day) helpfully suggested several titles, including this one. Billed as “a classic gothic,” I was a little nervous that it might be Victoria Holt-like, but after checking it out on Amazon.com and Goodreads, I decided to risk it.

Margaret Lea works in her father’s antique book shop, emotionally isolated and obsessed to a fairly unhealthy degree with her dead identical twin. Vida Winter is a reclusive famous writer, emotionally isolated and obsessed to a fairly unhealthy degree with her own dead identical twin. In her dotage and facing a terminal illness, Vida has finally decided to share her mysterious life story, and she wants Margaret to be the one to write it down. Off on the moors (okay, that much was stereotypical), Margaret is fascinated by Vida’s twisted tale, but echoes of her own life story inevitably start to resonate. Shadows and foreshadows of Jane Eyre, a mystery of birth, and twins who just won’t stay dead grip the reader until the last few pages, where the author takes great (and satisfying) pains to wrap up every little detail. I couldn’t put it down.

Maybe I was just tired (it was four-thirty in the morning when I finished the book), but even with the care that the author took to tie up loose ends, there was one detail that remained unexplained for me. Whose initials were IAR? Not whose I thought they would be, which begs the question: Was it a typo, or was Emmeline a serial diary thief? If you read it, I’d be interested to know your thoughts.

Thank you, Mindy, good pick.

Layinda’s Blog Rating: ¶¶¶¶

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I Already Read That

Many, many times when I have suggested titles for students in their later years (by which I mean high school), I have gotten the, “Oh, I read that in fifth grade,” comment. It is frequently accompanied by the vaguely superior attitude that tends to distinguish a precocious reader.

In response, I have this to say: Reading something as a child is not the same as reading it in high school (or later). Yes, the words are the same, the characters are the same, and the plot is the same, but you, dear reader, are not.

The Chronicles of Narnia series, by C.S. Lewis, is a classic example of this. Easily digested as a fairy tale in one’s early years, in the hands of a teenager, it can boggle the mind with its innuendo and double meaning. So can The Hobbit. And Watership Down. And practically every other book not exclusively intended for the younger crowd.

Even when perfectly capable of understanding the words and following a complex plot, the preadolescent reader (even a gifted one) just doesn’t have the maturity to recognize the nuance and subtlety embedded in most literature.

Think I’m wrong? Dust one off and read it again.

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Best of the Blog V: Post Face Off

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For this last installment of The Best of the Blog (next week I will start writing new posts again), I was torn between one that had a large number of visitors the first time around, and one that I wrote when the blog was young and not many people saw it. Then I thought, “Why not both?”

• It Was the Worst of Times

• Scrabbling for Success: 10 Helpful Hints for the Querying Process

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Best of the Blog IV: The Ultimate Sacrifice

Decoration Day Raphael Tuck & Sons Series No 107 South Butler NY 1908 use

Memorial Day usually makes us think of loved ones whom we’ve lost in service to our country, but the United States rests on the bones of many from previous generations who have no one left to mourn. Today’s Best of the Blog is dedicated to Howard Brewer, 1898-1918.

The Ultimate Sacrifice

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